Today Jürg and his wife enjoy the freedom after their departure, because the New Apostolic Church could no longer be a home for them. Jürg’s account of his childhood and youth, as well as his ministry as a priest in the New Apostolic Church, written without accusation or polemic, very impressively describes his inner conflict and that of many members of the New Apostolic Church.
We’re free at last. Now we know God doesn’t dwell in a church, but in our hearts….
We’ve come full circle. From the beginning in “Shame” to the end in “Shame.” After more than 35 years of membership in the New Apostolic Church (NAC), a “falling away” from the faith. From “hopeful up-and-comer” (as my “predecessors” called me) to dropout.
Or a release?
Mom left me home alone for NAC.
It started in 1967; I was born out of wedlock to a New Apostolic mother. I was not allowed to be carried before the congregation for infant baptism (which was common in the NAC). Too shameful the sight of a single parent with her child. The community preferred to look the other way. Already in my childhood I experienced the NAC as a roller coaster of emotions. I am still very grateful today that I was so lovingly welcomed by childminders from the community. On the negative side, I remember the many evenings my mother spent at church, leaving me home alone. Contrary to the prayers at the altar, I did not sleep peacefully at home, but cried out for my mother on the balcony. The neighbors shook their heads.
I found the fellowship of the “children of God” beautiful. Less nice that I should invite my classmates to children’s guest services. At that time, of course, I did not know that one should not “advertise” for one’s church, but for Jesus Christ. Instinctively, however, I was uncomfortable talking about NAC with friends. Confirmation and youth followed. I experienced the community in the “Jugi” very positively. One got to know many people, met after the “Jugichorprobe” in the pub or in the disco. I had a great time. Not exactly a very Christian life; and yet my inner fears were rising. Buy out church services and youth lessons, follow the advice of the blessing bearers; that brings blessings, it hammered into my head. At the age of 20 I decided to do even more for the church, I wanted even more blessings. Ordination as subdeacon and later deacon followed.
On a sailing trip in Italy with young people from the community, I fell in love with my wife. Together we were committed to the NAC. If possible, buy out all church services, youth club, choir, orchestra, etc. Recognition over and over. Blessing. In 1995, months before our wedding, I was called to the altar. Now, welcomed before the crowd of witnesses of the congregation, I should say YES or NO to the priesthood. I felt honored (I had never heard of universal priesthood of all believers). I wanted more blessings! Wanted to be thankful to the dear parishioners and do something for them. My fiancée cried. Of course I said YES.
I instinctively felt the so-called “blessing bearer” was not biblical
On top of our wedding preparations, we now had the stress of the priesthood. My ups and downs in terms of faith became more and more rapid. On the one hand, I felt close to God while serving as an NAC priest, but on the other hand, I felt very uncomfortable and overwhelmed. Family visits as a so-called “blessing bearer” I instinctively felt was not biblical. Something made me think she was wrong from the start. However, only my wife had real understanding for my feelings.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized that there is no such thing as spiritual standing; that all glory is to God, the “blessing bearer doctrine” is absurd, and a personal, direct relationship with God is possible. Serving at the altar strained my nerves. The words were not always on the tip of my tongue; especially when I was called to the altar unprepared. However, the hunger for God’s Word did not diminish. Annoyed by the superficial leading thoughts on the divine service of the Chief Apostle, I reached more and more for biblical lexicons and other Christian literature. I had a hard time with the Luther Bible, the official NAC translation. I often didn’t understand the connections.
My fears and the Chief Apostle’s sweetness
I still had great inner fears of willingly skipping a church service. When Chief Apostle Fehr then announced the abolition of Sunday evening services during a transmission service, I was gripped by a silent rage. I had such fears for years. Now, with a smug smile, this head of the church could abolish this service just like that. I didn’t feel like I was being taken seriously. While I was very happy to have the evening off, I became more vigilant.
When the district superintendent made remarks like: We can no longer preach this and that as it is written in the leading thoughts, or the apostle only wants to preach in filled church halls, etc.
I also questioned the NAC baptism of the dead more and more. My doubts about the “one true church of Christ” increased monthly. With the new medium Internet I learned more and more about the scandals: Wrong message, scandalous treatment of our brothers and sisters; the Chief Apostle’s taking huge “gifts” from entrusted people for granted; the role of the NAC in the N.S. era, etc. It would not end.
My theological foundation was shaken
Reading internet websites like ‘nak-info.de’ shook my theological foundations. My old belief system was shaking. Even a change of parish didn’t help. I doubted the doctrine of the NAC. I knew instinctively, a debate with “forerunners” was of no use. I knew too well this game of trivialization and subliminal, hidden fear-mongering. I suffered increasingly from cardiac arrhythmias during church services. This did not go unnoticed by community members.
However, in solidarity with relatives and really dear friends, I hid my feelings for a long time, even from myself. Looking back, important for my involvement in the NAC was my great sympathy with our district elder. An extremely intelligent businessman who worked for the churches and believers with almost superhuman energy, but without particularly emphasizing NAC dogma. He made me feel like I was in a community that was open to the world and not exclusive. Our district was certainly the most liberal in Switzerland. This kept me from really coming clean for a very long time.
The jug broke at the tribal apostle worship service
However, my self-denial came to an end. On the occasion of one of these tribal apostle worship services, however, the jar broke. I just couldn’t take it anymore under this adulation and temporarily left the place of worship. Finally, my eyes were opened. I recognize this today as the grace of God. When the District Apostle then announced a renaissance and not a reformation, I made the decision to resign my office.
During this phase I had a strong intuition that I absolutely had to look the leaders of the NAC in the eye. So I found myself willing to have a conversation with the apostle in charge. Even today the cold sweat runs down my back. To perceive the workings of the spirit of religion so impressively was uncanny. He did not argue biblically in any way, but tried to prove the NAC doctrine exclusively with his own experiences and feelings. At this level, dialogue was pointless. How the adversary seeks to seduce with signs and wonders is evident from Mt 24,11.
The fear-mongering phase
I don’t want to condemn this NAC apostle either. On the contrary, I think he really loved me and it hurt him. But after this conversation the detachment from the NAC became even more urgent.
There then followed the tedious phase of fear-mongering. It was pointed out to me from closer quarters that blessings might be over now. Is the marriage breaking up? My own business bankrupt? Bad luck? All those nasty little stings, finely programmed into the brain since childhood.
My wife and I made the decision to attend the last NAC service; very deliberately. Ideally, the service was followed by a community celebration. We wanted to shake hands and look into the eyes of as many as possible when we said goodbye to the NAC. This was probably a very unusual affair, the more interesting the reactions. From embarrassed silence to statements like: I would be much too scared for that, there should be more brave people like that, or “hey, why do you see it so narrowly, I don’t believe that either, but our friends are here and making music is so beautiful”.
Jesus has set me free
We’re free at last. Now we know God does not dwell in a church, but in our hearts.
To dictate to the majesty of God where the Spirit should blow, that was just incredibly bold. Looking back, I am very ashamed to have held such doctrine as a minor NAC official. I was blind. Fortunately, my eyes were opened. I can’t take credit for this. Jesus Christ let himself be crucified for me. He set me free. He is risen and alive today and now. It is through Him that I will be blessed, and not through any other blessing bearer. The Holy Spirit is His representative on earth, and no one else. And when people gather in His name He is in our midst, not when some church president arranges it!
“Thus saith the Lord, Cursed is the man that trusteth in man”! (Jer 17:5) When people sell themselves as irreplaceable intermediaries, all alarm bells ring for me.
God reveals Himself; but in Jesus Christ.
We can test everything by the standard of Scripture. Probably written down by human hands, yet inspired by the Holy Spirit and authorized by God.
When we stand before God one day, we cannot refer to membership in the NAC; not to baptism; not to a chief apostle or to good works; not to sealing and not to an apostle’s absolving of sins. We can only surrender our lives to Jesus, confess our sins to Him, then Jesus Himself will dwell in us (Rom 8:9-10) and God will rejoice and receive us into His kingdom.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.
We recommend the translation of the Bible by Franz Eugen Schlachter in the 2000 version